The unexpected findings of homophily and fashion

Homophily and the Clothing industry seem to have a pretty simple relationship, right? We spend our time with like minded individuals many of which share our tastes in dress and that is what stimulates this industry, right? According to Cao,Qin,Yang, and Zhang’s findings in their journal titled “Fashion and Homophily”, surprisingly a saturation of Homophily is what hinders this industry and Fashion cycles (the driving force behind the industry at large) is product of Heterophily.

In this article they explain the importance of planned obsolescence on driving an economy. The problem with Fashion (which happens to be a huge contributor to economic growth and stability) is that most people (with the exception of the very wealthy) can only justify an expensive purchase if it means that the item they receive in return is going to last. Since the products in the industry are designed to last, designed obsolescence would not be an effective strategy to drive the industry forward. Instead the fashion industry adopted clever techniques to make their non-disposable products “last seasons news”.

Think about it like this: If everyone dressed the same and companies always made the same products then nobody would need to buy another piece of clothing until the stuff they have is ruined or until they don’t fit them anymore. Homophily is detrimental to the growth of the fashion industry because it allows for people to remain socially comfortable wearing the same clothes as everyone else until they cannot be worn any longer. This is why Heterophily is important for this market, it allows diversity and it allows the “rebels” (as they call them in the article) to pave the way for new consumer tastes and trends and fuels the innovation and momentum the industry needs to survive and thrive.

BJF

http://www.amss.ac.cn/xwdt/kydt/201306/P020130606348842895407.pdf

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1 thought on “The unexpected findings of homophily and fashion”

  1. That is a very interesting take on the clothing industry. It is interesting to think that a company would be actively working against homophily by choosing when to push heterophily tastes to certain people. I notice particularly with shoes since I play basketball, Nike was most popularized by Michael Jordan in his rookie year in the NBA. Every year since then they force the signature athletes to wear the most current Jordan shoe so that the market will be pushed to buy the most current version. It is very pronounced in the advertisements that the newest shoe is always the “best” so that people will return each year to buy the new shoes and join the new market. Pushing the idea of the “best” style can only be found in the newest “fresh” pair of shoes is a good example of a company pushing for heterophily often to get the most out of their brand.

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